Bookshelf Adventures: Having A Clear Out

The dreaded words. Clear out. I’m all for a clear out, it’s sensible and healthy, but my goodness – it is not a pleasant process. It’s bad enough doing it with clothes, but books? Indecision goes into overdrive. Not only is it hard to choose what to keep and what to get rid of, books work differently than other possessions. I get attached to clothes, but my attitude to them sometimes changes, as do my tastes and, dare I say it, my size. Getting rid of clothes I no longer wear is often an issue of practicality. I don’t need the clothes I no longer. But do I need all my books?

Yes. Of course I do. Books are a necessity. HOWEVER there are some that I would choose to get rid of because I don’t like them. That’s a matter of taste, which is different.

Is this making any sense?

The issues of having a clear out of books has been growing since my boyfriend and I moved into our little flat a year ago. We were both moving out of our parents’ homes, and as English Literature students and big readers, we both have a LOT of books. I brought about half of mine, and he brought about a third of his (our mothers dutifully guard the rest of them, piled up in their homes, gathering dust), and our flat only has two bookshelves. Also, a year is a long time, and there are now a lot more books than there used to be. Dan is a bit of an impulse buyer, and as a blogger I get sent a lot of proofs – which equals a lot of books. Most of them are mine, and they’ve started to inhabit the coffee table, the desk, the floor, the sofa… I was duly informed last week that it was time for a clear out.

Now comes the question: what do I get rid of? But also: why do I get rid of this book and not that one? There’s also the issue of what to do with unwanted proofs, as these aren’t technically books, and you’re aren’t technically allowed to sell them on – so can I give them to a charity shop? Still not sure. However as far as I know it IS ok to pass them on to friends/fellow bloggers, so, if I have any old proofs that I no longer want, I will give my readers/followers a chance to take them off my hands, so keep an eye out for that!

I’d be interested to know what prompts you to have a clear out – books you no longer care about/like, or just physical space – and what makes you decide to keep one book and not another. What is it that makes get attached to a book, and what makes us feel indifferent about one?

As I get going with the clear out I will be following up on here with updates and photos, and I will be giving away some books. I’m aiming to give proofs and a few finished copies away online, and then the rest of the unwanted books (if there are enough!) will go to the Oxfam bookshop here in Oxford. I can’t promise I won[t buy at least one more book while I’m there – I’ve never been and have often imagined the vintage delights it may hold.

How do YOU feel about book clear outs?

6 thoughts on “Bookshelf Adventures: Having A Clear Out”

  1. Having a huge clear out at the moment simply owing to lack of space and the fact that with the children leaving home we may eventually downsize. It’s painful but in some ways not as bad as I expected. I’ve actually looked at a *lot* of books and been honest with myself that I’ll either never read them or never read them again – and it has made me focus on the books that remain. Having said that, I still have too many books in the house…. 🙂


  2. I find clear outs in general quite tricky, even more so when books are involved! Mostly I’ll only have a clear out if there’s an issue with space! If I don’t like a book, I usually don’t have any trouble donating it to a charity shop etc. But even then there are times when I’ll still hold on to a book even if I didn’t enjoy it, because it might remind me of a particular time, place, or person. Also, I’ve got lots of books from uni that I didn’t necessarily enjoy reading at the time, but I want to read them in a few years’ time to see if my opinion’s changed… so I’ve kept them. As you can probably tell, it’s quite a dilemma when it comes to sorting out my bookshelves! Great post, Lizzi 🙂


  3. I find them quite cathartic now, but I have so little space clearing room makes my brain happy. Good luck with your clear out, if only we could all have a room of requirement to put our books, then we could have an endless amount.


  4. I try to operate a one in, one out policy – although this has become increasingly difficult since starting a blog and being inundated with new releases! I’m very careful about what I buy and I try to only invest in books I know I’ll want to return to in the future – if I’m not sure about something, I will read it on Kindle first. As a rule I keep classics, and I only keep contemporary fiction if I feel I might read it again. I also pass a lot of books onto friends – I like the idea that someone else will get as much joy out of something as I did! I take my books to Oxfamtoo 🙂 (but usually return with a couple to re-stock!)


  5. I’m mid-mega-clearout too and have taken 10 big bags so far to the charity shop with more to come. I don’t send proofs to the charity shop, as they probably shouldn’t resell them either. I give them away or put them in a book recycling point (heaven knows what happens to them then!). I know that I will need to downsize soon, so it is having a good effect on the clutter in my house, but getting more difficult now I’ve got rid of all the easy choices not to keep.


  6. I tend to clear out as I go; rather than get rid of books on my shelves, I take books to the charity shop or library if I’ve read them and haven’t really enjoyed them. I find it a lot easier to do it this way, and not so daunting either. I hope your clearout goes well, or that you can find some creative ways of storing the books you have!


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